Ten Days That Shook the World Summary

John Reed

Ten Days That Shook the World

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Using a chronological narrative of fictional intensity, Reed weaves together the events preceding and during the takeover of the Russian state from the czarist government by leftist political parties, led by the Leninist-dominated Bolshevik party. Tracing the social as well as political antecedents to the events of October, the volume outlines the gradual political collapse of the Russian government, beginning with the Czar’s abdication and culminating in Aleksandr Kerensky’s ineptitude in handling the power thrust upon him to form and hold together a coalition of disparate social and economic groups.

Interspersing accounts of his personal experiences with excerpts from public documents such as newspapers, press releases, speeches, interviews, and broadsides, Reed creates a documentary montage of the chaotic progress of the revolution. Written close enough to the actual events to retain their immediacy, the narrative also does not sacrifice its objectivity. The result is a book of genuine historical insight and value.

Although Reed was a socialist himself and an open admirer of both Lenin and Trotsky, his professionalism as a reporter kept this study from becoming an uncritical apologia for the Bolshevik cause. He saw the repressions and excesses of the new government and was later critical of what he perceived as further and unnecessary repression of individual liberties by the Bolshevik party. Nevertheless, Reed was convinced by the justness of the cause to downplay actions which in later accounts would assume a greater significance. In spite of its theme and period, however, the volume holds up remarkably well both as a work of history in the making and as a piece of dramatic personal journalism.